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A Christmas Tale


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American Spectator:

He passed away earlier this year, the old man. We spent a number of Christmases with him and his wife, in their crowded, crumbling apartment in a village called Mysliborz near the German border. It was on one such Christmas night that he told this story, which even after all these years I am unable to forget:

FOR CHRISTMAS that year I received a brand new bicycle. This was in the first year of the war. The bicycle was a Lucznik, sleek and fire engine red. I was the envy of all the kids in the village. I still cannot imagine how my father saved enough to buy such a thing, but somehow he had.
That was the winter German troops arrived in our village. Immediately the soldiers began posting notices all over town. Every week a new notice ordering villagers to bring this or that item to police headquarters. One week it would be butter churners, the next week it was goats. If you ignored the order and you were found out, or if someone reported you, you would be severely punished. You can probably guess what that meant.

I was attending school the day the Germans decided to round up all of the bicycles in the village. I can only imagine how terrible my father must have felt, knowing how much I loved that bicycle. Nevertheless he dared not disobey orders. My father was a practical man. He wasn't going to risk being shot over a bicycle.

That afternoon my friend Radek and I walked home from school just like we always did. It had been raining earlier but now the sky had cleared and the cobblestone streets shimmered in the late afternoon sun. Suddenly Radek halted. He nudged me and asked if that wasn't my bicycle leaning against the wall of the tavern. We hurried to get a closer look. True enough, it was my bike. No one else in town had one like it, and no one would for many years.

"How do you suppose it got here?" asked Radek.
I shrugged. "Beats me."snip
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